Hello, my name is Carolyn and I am 59 years old. I found out that I had TMJ when I was 23 years old. I could no longer close my mouth to bite and chew food. I was in a car accident when I was 18 and was told I probably had whiplash. I also had an over and open bite which only made things worse.
I have worked for 30 plus years and finally had to “retire” due to my health. I cannot describe the pain, but the closest I can come is what I would imagine is bone on bone pain. An example I use is to imagine a tennis player having his/her shoulder dislocated and still having to play the game of tennis. With TMJ I still have to talk, smile, laugh, kiss, and eat; most often this is done with pain. Another issue is that I cannot take pain medication without taking a nausea pill. If I take both a nausea and a pain pill it completely knocks me out, so I have to choose between living in pain or going to sleep without pain. When I was 23 years old I didn’t have pain, but in the last 10 years the pain has been horrible. I was taking 8 to 12 Advil a day because it seemed to help the pain; however I was told to stop because of its effect on my kidney function. At this point I have to decide whether to take Advil to help the pain or lose my kidneys.
I have a great dentist. He has made me several splints, because I have worn several out. He has tried equilibration [grinding down teeth], but as I get older he says I probably have arthritis and some nerve damage. I am sure I have both. I have seen a TMJ specialist who told me to save my money because he would be doing the same treatments my dentist had already done. I feel hopeless and helpless and a complete failure as a wife, mother, and grandmother, because I never “want” to do anything. I have a wonderful, supportive family, but my husband is the only one who really knows and sees how bad the pain is, and he feels so helpless because he can’t fix it for me that I try not to let him see me at this point. I can usually hang in there until noon, but after that it all does downhill, and by five or six I am ready to knock myself out.
I wish I could find a pain management doctor who could help. Again, I can’t take pain pills. I would like to try a muscle relaxer to relax my jaw muscles which are spasming by the end of the day, but no one wants to give me a prescription for fear I would become addicted to the medication. At this point I just don’t care; I just need someone to listen, to help, and work with me, instead of just telling me medicine can’t help. I try not to complain in public. I’m sure there are people with cancer who are in a lot of pain, but when you are in a lot of pain and cannot get relief, it is the most miserable situation anyone can be in. This is my story.